Icelandic Horses

The Icelandic Horse


THe icelandic Horse

The Icelandic horse is one of the purest horse breeds in the world.  Their isolation in their home country Iceland allows the breed to stay untouched by cross breeding.  Once a horse leaves the country of Iceland, they cannot return.  Currently there are less than 6,000 Icelandic horses in the United States. Not only is the breed unique for their pure lineage, but they also are unique because of their ability to produce five gaits.  Like any other horse they produce walk, trot and canter.  The two added gaits are called tölt and the flying pace.  The added gaits and their calm, easy going temperament makes them an all around versatile horse.


                                                           Unique Gaits


The first unique gait of the Icelandic horse is the tölt.  Tölt is a completely natural gait to the breed.  The four-beat lateral gait can range from a variety of speeds as well be performed while doing many different exercises.  This gait can be done at a slow tempo to a fast tempo that can match the speed of a canter.  The order of the foot fall is left hind, left front, right hind, right front.  With the same foot fall as the walk, tölt is smooth and ground covering.  There is always at least one foot on the ground, producing a gait that keeps the rider almost movement free while riding the gait. 


The second unique gate and the fifth gait that the Icelandic horses produces is a pace.  This pace is called a skeiðflugskeið or "flying pace.  This racing gait is fast and smooth with some horses reaching speeds up to 30 miles per hour.  During this gait, both legs on one side work together simultaneously, with a moment of suspension in the air.  Because the gait is used for short distances the primary use for the gait is for racing.  The two-beat gait is a gait that not all Icelandic horses can perform.  There are four gaited and five gaited Icelandic horses.  Depending on the horse’s genetics, the horse has the ability to perform the gait.  Because the gait can only be done by well-trained and balanced horses with skilled riders, the flying pace is the considered the crown of Icelandic horsemanship. 


The Icelandic horse and many other horses produce is the trot.  The trot is a two-beat gait.  This gait has a wide variation in speeds, Ranging from around 6 miles per hour during sitting trot and around 8 miles per hour during posting trot.  The Icelandic horses used in competition and breeding train for a trot with a lot of knee action.  People who ride Icelandic horse can post the trot or sit via the use of a half seat in the trot depending on the choice of the rider in the competitions and while in training.



Canter is a three-beat gait that ranges from 10 to 12 miles per hour and 14 to 16 miles per hour while hand galloping. In the canter the gait starts from one of the hind legs to the front in a rocking like motion.  Depending of the lead of the canter either the right hind or the left hind leg leads.  In the left lead canter the first beat starts with the right hind leg, then the left hind moves with the right front and finally the third beat of the left lead canter is the left front leg.  In the right lead canter the left hind is the first beat following the right hind and left front legs working together and the right front leg following.  In the canter, there is always a moment of suspension.